STUDIES: Marijuana Eases Multiple Sclerosis, Might Help Brain Cancer, Could Pose Heart Risk 3/10/00

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Three marijuana studies were released in three separate countries this week, two hopeful, one cautionary. One of the studies seems to confirm one medicinal benefit of marijuana -- easing Multiple Sclerosis symptoms -- another raises a new area of hope -- shrinking brain tumors -- and the third signals an area of caution in the possibility of increased risk of heart attack for smokers suffering from heart disease.

The journal Nature published a report this week by British scientists, including Lora Layward of the MS Society of Britain, that showed that compounds which mimic cannabis ameliorated MS symptoms in mice.

"This work gives support to anecdotal reports from people that say cannabis can alleviate spasticity and tremor," Layward told reporters. "This is the first time it has been shown objectively and scientifically that cannabis derivatives can control some of the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis." The report pointed out that symptoms were eased in within sixty seconds of the drug's intake. Layward, bemoaning the current legal problems faced by many MS sufferers, added, "It is an unacceptable state of affairs when people suffering from a serious disease feel driven to break the law."

In Spain, researchers at the Complutense and Autonoma Universities in Madrid found that inoperable brain tumors in rats were completely dissipated by the introduction of cannabis in one third of the test subjects, and that another third lived an average of 40 days longer than expected. The same type of tumors, which inflict thousands of humans, generally kill patients within a year, despite any treatment currently available. While the researchers were quick to point out that smoking cannabis should not be considered a treatment option to the exclusion of more traditional interventions, they also admit that they are not certain exactly how cannabis works. Their best guess is that cannabis stimulates the immune system to attack the cancerous cells.

Lead researcher Manuel Guzman, who hopes to begin human testing within a year, noted, "we observed a very remarkable growth-inhibiting effect." In the experiment, THC, the compound in cannabis that causes intoxication, was injected directly into the brain tumors. "When one smokes (cannabis), only a small part of the cannabinoids are expected to reach the tumor," said the researchers. "These results may provide the basis for a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of malignant gliomas."

Finally, a study presented this week by Dr. Murray A. Middleman at the American Heart Association's annual conference on cardiovascular disease in San Diego, showed that smoking marijuana significantly raises the risk of heart attack in people already at risk through heart disease.

Dr. Middleman noted that marijuana's tendency to increase heart rates in reclining smokers, and for those rates to drop precipitously when the individual stands up, may pose significant risks for people with coronary disease. The group studied 3,882 heart attack sufferers, of which 124 were marijuana users. Of those, 37 claimed to have used marijuana within 24 hours of their heart attack, and 9 had used it within the previous hour. The risk, said the researchers, was 4.8 times higher than normal within an hour of smoking, but dropped precipitously to 1.7 times normal risk by the second hour.

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Issue #128, 3/10/00 DRCNet and TV's "Judge Judy" in War of Words Over Needle Exchange Remarks Following Launch of Web Site | Prop. 21 Passage Sparks Lively Protest | Forfeiture Vote Postponed Again | New Hampshire, Vermont to Close the Gap with Methadone Legislation | Two Hawaii Medical Marijuana Bills Pass, Letters to Legislators Still Needed | STUDIES: Marijuana Eases Multiple Sclerosis, Might Help Brain Cancer, Could Pose Heart Risk | Feinstein-Campbell | Link of the Week | Events | Editorial: California's Shame
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